Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dinner in Barceloneta- May 16. 2009

Chris and I had planned even before we came to Barcelona to have a nice dinner in Barceloneta, the old port part of Barcelona by the sea. We could see the Marina and the Mediterranean sea from our little table outside at the Siempreviva Restaurant. We had sort of planned on trying a different restaurant, but a very convincing cute little old man talked us into trying this place. We wanted a dinner with fresh seafood from the Mediterranean... and we got it!

We each ordered the "Menu del Dia" which is almost always your best bet at saving money in Europe, because it often includes multiple courses with just more limited choices. We each got to choose an appetizer, entree and dessert from some limited selections from the menu. Chris was determined to have some fresh clams, but it wasn't one of his choices so he ordered both mussels and clams for his appetizer. As it turns out, the clams were pretty good but the mussels were too chewy for my taste but Chris was happy as a clam (sorry, couldn't help myslef ;)

For my appetizer, one of the choices was "Pescada Frita" which I knew in Spanish was fried fish. I envisioned a plate with a sampling of various pieces of fish and shrimp all battered and deep fried, and that sounded pretty good, so I ordered that. What I got was completely unexpected... I probably should have known better but it surprised me nonetheless! It was nothing other than a whole plate of fried sardines!

As I've told the story of the plate of sardines, people always immediately ask if I tried ONE, and promptly make a questioningly twisted face! This picture is the answer to that question!

I determined that before our trip, if I had an opportunity to try any local food, even if I had preconceived notions about it, I wanted to try and experience everything I could... so when this opportunity presented itself, I had some apprehensions, but my original resignation overruled! In other words, I was bound and determined to try this disgusting looking fried little fish even though I was sure it was going to at least make me gag...

So the answer to whether or not I ate ONE is... yes, and not only that I tried very hard to work my way through that rather large plate. I am happy to report that I successfully finished about two thirds of the plate. The answer to the other popular question is that they actually don't taste that bad, I mean, they are salty and fried, they can't be that bad!? The hardest part is psychological, when you are staring at a plate of fish heads with bulging eyeballs, that's hard! And they have a distinct crunch from the bones, another hard part is seeing the spines hanging out of the sides of broken ones... hmmmm?? I will say that Chris and I probably laughed harder at that dinner than during any other time of our entire trip... he was laughing at all my little pep talks to keep eating, and that I would frequently burst into singing "Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly Poly Fish Heads, Eat Them Up, YUM!" I can thank my Mom for bringing us up on Dr. Demento for that... and that song will never, ever be the same to me. But I was proud of myself despite the fact that the waiter gave me a disapproving look when I returned the plate not licked clean.

My entree was much more tame and expected, Salmon Steak with French Fries, and was really good, but was a little tainted from my stomach already full of fish, but I still finished every last bite.

It escaped me what kind of fish Chris ordered right now, but it was cooked in a tasty sauce. And he liked it, so that's all that mattered. And we finished our meal with the traditional Crema Catalana, which is similar to a Creme Brulee. Oh, and one funny side note, every single table around us had ordered the Seafood Paella, and so we sort of thought maybe we missed out on something, so if you happen to go to Barcelona... and eat in Barceloneta- I might recommend the Seafood Paella. But we were happy to have had a very memorable and fun meal on the coast of the Mediterranean.

Admittedly, we were completely stuffed and looking forward to walking some of it off on the way back to the Hotel. And this was our only night where we had enough energy to be out at night, so it was fun to see the city at night. So much of it was alive and lit up and beautiful. We walked back through the Gothic Quarter and along some of La Rambla and through Plaza Catalunya on the way back to our Hotel. What a beautiful way to enjoy the city at night.

This was our little hotel, Hotel Advance, in the Eixample district, very close to all the historical parts of the city. It was sort of a boutique hotel tucked right in the middle of a nondescript street, but it looked especially lovely at night. It was close to our favorite little bakery, and with an internet spot around the corner and helpful staff, what more could we want?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Montjuic and Passeig de Gracia- Barcelona, May 16, 2009

Some more of our great Saturday in Barcelona... these pictures are taken along and off of the Avenida Diagonal, one of the widest avenues of the city, it crosses the entire city diagonally until it reaches the sea. But there again were these beautiful buildings lining the streets, with these fantastic balconies and great architectural details.

Chris was fascinated with Obelisks that were in squares and plazas everywhere we went, often stolen from other places that they conquered. This may be the first of many pictures of obelisks to come...

These are of La Pedrera along the famous Passeig de Gracia, a street rich with architectural history and now lined with expensive stores and nice sidewalk cafes. La Pedrera, also known as Casa Mila, is one of Gaudi's most free works and was constructed between 1906 and 1910. This was his last civil work before he devoted himself exclusively to Sagrada Familia. The owners of the property, Roser Segimon and Pere Mila, wanted a spectacular residential building of great social importance. The main floor was to be occupied by the owning family and the rest of the apartments were to be rented. The sheer size and originality of the project meant that the house was often caricatured in the newspapers and magazines of it's day, to which it owes it's nickname, Pedrera means "quarry." The house was located on the main thoroughfare of the time, Paseo de Gracia, where a large number of Modernist houses and even the current street lamps and pavements are evocative of this style.

Las Casa Battlo, with it's roof of coloured ceramic scales, is one of the most charismatic buildings in the Ensanche quarter and one of Gaudi's most characteristic works, although he reformed an older building dating from 1875, redone between 1904, and 1906. He transformed the entire facade, ground floor, courtyard, and attics. The highly original facade is topped by ceramic tiles reminiscent of fish scales, in a rhythmic pattern that is said to resemble the backbone of a dragon. It is flanked by Casa Amatller, and Casa Lleo Morera which together form the Block of Discord, because of the architectural contrasts between the three buildings and three leading architects of that period, and from the varying opinions of people who prefer one work over another. These architects worked at the service of a bourgeoisie who wanted to be different and wished to be recognized as the owners of such singular and striking buildings.

This is the front of a little cafe that we ate along the Rambla Catalunya. We had the most fantastic little ham sandwich on a crusty baguette, and some Horchata which as it turns out is not nearly as good as Mexican Horchata. We actually ate on the sidewalk under the umbrellas that line every sidewalk cafe and are all over the town. (Sorry, don't know why I don't have a picture of what I'm talking about...) But it fascinated us that these large areas of sidewalk cafes were serviced by these tiny little storefront restaurants, often with just one waiter running in and out and obviously working very hard!

This is the University of Barcelona, and another grand example of the amazing architecture that was everywhere we looked. This was close to our hotel and we walked past often multiple times a day during our trip and became our own personal landmark.

After wandering the streets of the Gothic Quarter, we hopped back on our double decker bus for the tour of the other side of the city (it has two routes) where we headed up Montjuic, a beautiful "mountain" just outside town. It is home to some beautiful gardens (Jardins de Miramar), the Olympic Stadium from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the MNAC or National Art Museum in the Palau Nacional (National Palace), Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village), and Plaza de Espanya at the base with the beautiful water fountains which were unfortunately not turned on yet??

The Olympic ring of Montjuic was the focal point and main sporting area of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. The stadium is a restored building that originally dated back to 1929, and of which only the facade remained, with the interior being fully refurbished.

The views of the city from the grounds around the National Palace high atop Montjuic were breathtaking. It was fun to pick out many of the landmarks that we had recently visited too. We could easily see Torre Agbar and La Sagrada Familia, and I think you can even see Tibidabo in the distance to the left, and the Mediterranean to the right.

These were taken by the MNAC, one of the biggest museums in the city which houses the best collection of Romanesque wall paintings in the world. Like so many of the other beautiful buildings of the city, most of the facade was covered in scaffolding.

More fantastic views of the city... gotta love it!

This was a great area for some fun architectural and view pictures. And every once in awhile, we remembered to squeeze ourselves into a fabulous armlength shot!

Even if the facade was covered in scaffolding, you can see some of the great detail on this building from this shot of one of the towers of the National Palace.

Here's Chris patiently waiting at our bus stop to get on to the next fabulous place.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I'm participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life this year in honor of my Grandpa Bill Fiet! It is a great opportunity for me to get involved in the fight against this horrible disease... and you can get involved too by donating to support the cause for prevention, research, treatments, diagnosis by visiting my personal donation page at

You too can support our fight against this terrible disease, celebrate the lives of survivors, and remember loved ones lost. For more information, please visit Our team has already raised almost $3000 for our fight, and you can help me reach my additional personal goal of $200. And don't wait, our Relay is TOMORROW night! Thanks in advance for your support!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Barri Gotic, Barcelona- Saturday, May 16th

This is the perfect way to start your day... we stopped in Mistral Panaderia, about a block from our Hotel and each picked out some fresh Croissants. Then took them to the Cafe next door to pair them with some Hot Chocolate. Chris had a Chocolate Croissant, and I had a Crema Croissant, which had a custard filling in the center. It was perfect with the thick, yummy, hot chocolate. And I literally mmmed, and ahhed over it while I was eating it! YUM! I still crave this, and would be a very large, and poor woman if there was a bakery like this close by!

I think our favorite place in Barcelona was the Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter. We absolutely loved just getting "lost" down these narrow streets and alleyways. It fascinated me how much history was tucked into these tiny streets, and preserved so well in such a "large" area. Blocks and blocks of medieval streets and buildings, that are older than our country.

We took this trip to celebrate our 12th Anniversary (June 7th), so of course I had to include this picture. It was a fantastic opportunity for Chris and I to just be together and enjoy each other's company, and rekindle our friendship and a little romance. It was so great to just be the two of us for almost two whole weeks.

These were taken in the square, Plaza St. Jaume, between the Palau de la Generalitat and Casa de la Ciutat, or Ayuntament (city hall) buildings. The Palau de la Generalitat has been the seat of the Catalonian government since 1403, and still houses offices of the Catalan President.

This was a beautiful Gothic arch that we saw on postcards and paintings, and in exploring the Quarter, we turned a corner, and there it was. It was much more beautiful in person, because tucked into these narrow streets, it was hard to get the lighting to capture the right picture. And this may be a random picture of a door, but beautiful little details like this were everywhere you turned down these streets, and the simple and old world beauty of something as simple as a door was just beautiful.

One of the treats I looked forward most to trying in Barcelona was Churros con Chocolat! When we saw this cute little cafe down another narrow street, we found our place to try one. The churros are fried but very different from Mexican churros, and they are traditionally served with their version of hot Chocolate which is more like a hot, thick chocolate pudding, and you dip the churros into the thick drinking chocolate, and they delivered on my expectations- they were fantastic! A rich indulgence that was one of my favorite food experiences from the trip... and on a sidenote, after coming home, I found recipes for Spanish churros and chocolate, and tried them for the Chris and the kids. They turned out GREAT, so if anyone wants to try them, let me know ;)

This whole group of pictures were taken at the Museu d'historia de la Ciutat on the Plaza del Rei. We stumbled into this gorgeous old palace by accident, entranced by the subtle entrance to this beautiful courtyard. Turns out this old building was the Royal Palace, residence of the count-kings of Barcelona from it's foundation in the 13th century. On a side note, this is where "Isabel and Fernando received Columbus after his triumphal return from America. It is also where the Holy Inquisition sat, believing the walls would move if lies were told."

This was a beautiful little courtyard in that Royal Palace turned musuem, with these great little orange trees catching the glimmers of sunlight that sneak down between it's old walls.

"The main attraction of the Museu d'Historia lies underground. Entire streets and squares of old Barcino are accessible via a lift and walkways suspended over the ruins of Roman Barcelona." We didn't have enough time to venture into this museum, but saw some of these exhibits from windows looking down on these ancient roman streets. We will make time for this next time we visit.

These pictures were taken at the Barcelona Cathedral, a compact gothic cathedral was begun in 1298, on the foundations of a Roman temple and Moorish mosque. It was not finished until the early 20th century, when the central spire was completed, based on the original 1408 plans of the French architect Charles Galters.

This is a famous literal, hole in the wall spot, that we had seen on Travel Channel, and when we saw the same little old man working the bar that we had seen on TV, we couldn't help but go check it out. The Picasso museum is right across the street.

What a fantastic morning in Barcelona, we loved exploring these streets and history and architecture, I can't wait to go back and have the time to explore so much more inside some of these amazing places...